Moonriver Audio Model 404

I listened to the Stirling Broadcast and Spendor speakers on this amplifier. The Moonriver Audio Model 404. Moonriver is a Swedish company and this is their first and so far only product. it’s got a really high end feel. It looks expensive, classy and retro. It’s modular, so you can add a DAC or phono stage.

About the sound, I only heard this one amplifier connected to the speakers, so it’s hard to say a lot about its character, but the speakers sounded lively and it was able to bring out the clarity of the Stirlings.

Stirling LS3/6 and Spendor A7

Spendor was a brand that I had had in the back of my mind for some time. It became a renowned name in audio with its thin walled BBC style speakers. I though, was more interested in their modern speakers. I had the opportunity to have a listen to the A7.

The A7 is an almost 94cm tall, but just 18cm wide tower. It’s just 30cm deep, so it can be easily placed in smaller living rooms. It looks gorgeous in this dark walnut finish.

Its sensitivity is 88db with an impedance of 8 ohm. So it shouldn’t be too hard to drive. I think I have read somewhere Spendor makes an effort to make their speakers easy to drive.

This speaker sounded smooth. The highs weren’t piercing and the mids clear and precise. The bass didn’t extend too deep down. At least that’s what I could perceive. To be honest I think I was sitting a bit far away to get a precise feel for it. Still, it was enjoyable and engaging. I think this speaker is great for long sessions.

After listening to the Spendor I mentioned the thin walled BBC style speakers behind it. I made some remark about this ‘old fashioned’ things to the guy working in the shop and he insisted I have a listen. So he set up the Stirling LS3/6 speakers. It was quite an experience. Voices and strings were so lifelike. So gorgeous. I was not too sure about the bass though. It wasn’t very firm or deep. Somehow though I feel I should get them, but not as my main speakers.

The dumbest thing

Speaker sound demos… wait for it… on YouTube. I am just not getting it. A lot of people actually seem to like these, but they are completely useless!!

It really is the one of the dumbest things I have seen on YouTube.

What are these people thinking? Do the viewers or makers of such videos really think they can get/give a good impression of what a speaker sounds like?

Apparently so, as I see a lot of requests for this kind of video.

Harbeth, Hegel

Harbeth has a cult status in the audio world. Some love them, some just shrug. Somehow the link with the BBC gives them something extra for some people. To me they just look old fashioned, but somehow stylish.

I listened to them for a while. I think the first music I heard played on them was Diana Krall… The ultimate speaker audition cliché. They sounded ok, but a bit dull. Later I would learn that probably had a lot to do with the Hegel amplifier.

Before I ever got to listen to Hegel amplifiers I thought they were the best a modern amplifier could offer. After all I had read so many positive reviews about them and I love their minimalist design.

Then one day I was listening to some speakers. Dynaudios and KEFs on a Marantz amplifier. It sounded ok, but I thought these speakers had more to offer. So I asked if they could hook up a Hegel.

The shop had a very convenient system where they could not just switch speakers electronically, but also amplifiers. As soon as the Hegel was hooked up all life in the music was gone… Not musical, not very dynamic.

It shocked me. That day I learned reviews and other people’s opinions don’t mean anything. It’s only about what you think that matters.

The guy helping me then hooked up a Rega Elex-R. This amplifier was by far the best amplifier I heard that day.

Kii THREE BTX

After I listened to the Elacs I had a chance to listen to this speaker, half of the Kii THREE BTX system. At over 30.000 euros, not exactly attainable for everybody.

The owner of the shop wanted to impress and played some loud pop music with a lot of bass. I have never heard such a loud and tight bass. The floor was shaking.

I could hardly give a serious impression of this speaker as I just heard it for a short while, but it sounded quite detailed and in control despite the high volume. But at a little over 30K it should be exceptional, shouldn’t it?

Elac Navis ARB-51

When you are looking for active speakers online, you quite quickly run into the Elac Navis ARB-51. I like the ideas behind it. You can use them wirelessly with the Discovery Connect module, but you can also turn off all the wireless bits in the speaker and feed them with an analog cabled source.

The speaker is very well executed. It looks gorgeous and is well built. I particularly like the ones in the Emara finish.

I had the chance to listen to a pair of these, but cannot say I was very enthusiastic. They were displaying a lack of control. I do not know why this was, as this speaker generally gets quite favourable reviews. Maybe it was not run in yet or maybe it was the Discovery Connect’s power supply. Hans Beekhuyzen talks about it in his video about this speaker.

KEF R3 & LS50

In January of 2019 I also listened to KEF’s LS50 and R3. They were connected to an Arcam amplifier.

I really liked the clear presentation and openness of both of these great looking speakers. The listening room was not optimal and maybe therefore they sounded quite alike.

Maybe all I can say of what I learned then, is that the R3 sounds a bit fuller. This must be due to the woofer in the design. Duh…

I started reading up on these speakers and found that the LS50 has a cult following. There seems to be another large group of people who find them too analytical or too thin.

The speakers are meant for my living room. It is not a big room, still I felt that the LS50’s might just be a bit too small and lack proper bass.

The R3 being a new speaker at the time, it was still quite invisible on the net. I found mostly articles and posts on forums announcing them.

Boenicke W5 SE

In January 2019, during my lunch break I walked to an audio store to get some info on what the audio world has to offer these days and I got to listen to these little speakers. I do not exactly remember what they were connected to, but I think it was a Nam Unity ATOM.

They did not sound too detailed. The sound reminded me of computer speakers. Also their price quite baffled me. They are close to 6000 euros for a pair!

Audio in the last decade

Steve Guttenburg (also known as the Audiophiliac) gives his take on this decade’s advances and trends in audio. No real surprises, but I think he makes some good points.

What he had to say about active speakers I found the most interesting. He comes to the conclusion that active speakers are becoming more and more popular, but that the popularity is mostly in the more affordable segment. He is referring to the KEF LS50W, DALI Callisto 2c’s and Elac Navis ARB-51s of this world.

There are of course the Kii Audio THREE speakers, but they are quite alone in their segment.